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New Tata Altroz Diesel 2020: 31 review observations

GTO test-drove the Tata Altroz Diesel for 2 days and here are his review observations:

  • Allow me to make it very simple for you. If you like the Altroz, eyes shut, this turbo-diesel is the engine you should buy (irrespective of your running, fuel choice or the price difference). It is vastly superior to the weak naturally-aspirated petrol. If you absolutely must have a petrol Altroz, then wait for the upcoming turbo-charged version.
  • I vehemently disagree with Tata giving the Altroz 1.5L Diesel a lower state of tune than the Nexon. The Altroz makes 89 BHP & 200 Nm, while the Nexon has 109 BHP & 260 Nm. The Altroz is a premium “gold standard” hatchback and should’ve gotten the same engine tune + 6-speed gearbox as the Nexon. Tata mustn’t worry about cannibalization. If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will gladly do it for you. I hope this error is corrected in the future…maybe at the time of a facelift? The Nexon gets 20% more horsepower & 30% more torque. It shows in the drive.

Tata Altroz Diesel Review in the City

  • Sit in the Altroz’ driving seat and the first thing you’ll appreciate is the super light clutch! I loved it. This is a very Hyundai-like soft clutch. One thing I would have preferred is a little more play on top of the clutch pedal. Right now, even if you tap the pedal a little bit, you’ll be clutch-slipping. Conversely, on the move, the drivetrain is not fully engaged until you have taken your foot entirely off the pedal.
  • Even the gear lever is positioned at an extremely comfortable height. It’s a level higher than is usually the case, which makes things user-friendly. You don’t need to put your hand “down” to access it. The 5-speed MT's gearshift quality is alright; no issues.
  • Driveability is satisfactory & you won’t be using the gearbox excessively in the city.
  • Clears the 2nd gear speed-breaker test. But I couldn’t be careless with it like I am, say in my Sunny 1.5D. Give it a little more accelerator input; if you lug the motor too much, it will abruptly stall.
  • From idling revs & when you are just starting off from 0 km/h, the rpm needle takes its own sweet time to climb. While this isn’t an issue in regular driving, it will catch you out on stop-and-go inclines. If you stop in the middle of even a medium-level slope, you have to use the handbrake before getting going again, as it takes a lot of time for the revs to build up again. Throttle response from idling rpm is painfully dull (I don't remember this in the Nexon) & it even caught me out when I stopped midway on a big toll booth speed-breaker. No issues once the car is on the move & the turbo is spooling.
  • Practical on the move & you won’t be changing gears too much. I was ambling around in 3rd gear @ 30 km/h without a sweat. I tried dropping the speed to 20 - 25 km/h in 3rd, and she still pulled back up without a fuss.
  • The turbo-diesel wakes up at ~1,500 rpm and is in its element as you near 2,000 rpm.
  • Tata has provided an “Eco” mode for those who want the maximum fuel efficiency. A welcome feature as hatchback customers can be FE-oriented. Good news is that Eco mode is very usable in the city. I happily cruised all around Bandra & Juhu in “Eco” & had no complaints.
  • On the flip side, I do miss a “Sport” mode, which the Nexon gets. In the Altroz, it’s only the Eco & City driving modes that are provided.
  • Our test car had an absurd flat spot that reared its ugly head at some points. I saw it in 2nd gear @ 31 – 33 km/h where you’d feel like the fuel delivery is interrupted, accompanied by mild jerks. These were so soft that passengers didn’t notice them, but the interruption was obvious to me as the driver. The same was observed in 3rd gear at ~80 km/h too; it was more prominent at this speed. This gap in power seems to be some kind of mapping issue in the ECU. I saw it in both the driving modes. Solution? Increase or decrease the speed / rpm until Tata fixes it.
  • Don’t know what it is with Tatas & bugs (I came across 2 bugs in 2 days with the Harrier AT as well). One is the fueling issue mentioned above, and here is the second one. The main ICE touchscreen froze up. It ended up displaying a song name & clock time that was long done with, but the MID was showing the correct, current track name + time. Click here to see the video on it. You can also gauge the top sound quality from the video.
  • This was my first time in the Altroz and I ended up being pleasantly surprised at what a well-sorted hatchback this is. Solid build, nice cabin, 5-star safety rating, lots of space, lovely sound system – it’s a capable car. Tata cars have come a long way (liked the Harrier AT too) & I quite enjoyed my weekend with the Altroz diesel. Tata ought to learn from the Koreans & Japanese to arrive with all guns blazing though. At launch, we should’ve had a turbo-petrol with an Automatic option, and the same with a diesel + AT. After all, the combinations are already on sale in the Nexon since ages! Instead, they introduced the car with a weak petrol & no AT, while diesel deliveries were delayed until months later. Quite puzzling why engines & gearboxes arrive in a phased manner with Tata. Please do read my article on why it's imperative to introduce a car with the right engines + transmissions.

Tata Altroz Diesel Review on the Highway

  • On the open road, the Altroz 1.5L Diesel is so much superior to its n/a petrol sibling.
  • Punchy mid-range. This car has almost double the torque of the petrol variant and it shows. Where the petrol is flat, this one’s mid-range is fun.
  • 100 km/h is seen at a relaxed 2,200 rpm, while 120 km/h is at ~2,650-2,700 rpm. These numbers are similar to the Swift diesel, but not as chilled out as the 6-speed i20.
  • This 1.5L diesel isn’t a fast-revving motor (I again miss the eagerness of the Nexon in “Sport” mode) or a high rpm-friendly one. At ~4,300, the rev needle seems to hit a wall & progress falls off a cliff. This can give you a nasty surprise if you downshift to near 4,000 rpm & move out to overtake – there’s no progress at high rpm. Sure, if you push it, the motor will rev to ~4,700 prm, but there is really no point going that high. The best part about the Altroz diesel is the mid-range. Enjoy it and shift up at 4,100 rpm tops. The only times I pushed it beyond 4,300 rpm was when I was in the middle of an overtaking manouveur & needed those extra revs.
  • I will say that engine sound is well-controlled. You can hear the diesel at 3,000 rpm, yet it is not loud / groaning / ugly at all. I actually liked the engine note & consider this to be one of the better sounding diesels. Even beyond 4,000 rpm, the volume and clatter are superbly restricted. Not excessive at all. In fact, your family won’t mind you driving at 4,000 rpm in this diesel.
  • While highway performance is more than adequate, I will say again that the Nexon’s additional BHP & torque would have made this car special, the natural enthusiast’s choice. In a premium hatchback, you just expect something more special & I wish Tata went all out with the Altroz. After all, when you have the ammunition ready, why not use it? Furthermore, having the most power in the segment would be an excellent differentiator over the Marutis & Hyundais of the world. Tata needs to differentiate & stand out from the crowd. You can’t leave your guns at home when you head out to fight.
  • Another plus of this engine is that it’s known for its fuel economy. The 1.5L diesel will give you consistently good efficiency, whether in the city or on the highway.
  • Excellent, mature suspension. At expressway speeds, the Altroz feels very “big car-like”. At low city speeds, the suspension is firm & that will bother you on broken roads (high 35 PSI tyre pressure is a contributor too). But as the speedometer needle climbs, the Altroz rides f-l-a-t. It’s impressively composed on the highway. Recovery from road dips & undulations is splendid too.
  • High speed stability is top-class! The maturity at expressway speeds is comparable to European cars. Solid, planted & confidence-inspiring is how I'd describe it. The steering also weighs up well at speed. Must say that Tata tunes its EPS better than HPS (hydraulic).
  • It sure feels good to be cruising at 120 km/h in a car that carries a 5-star safety rating. Just makes you feel that much more confident. If you drive primarily on expressways, keep the Altroz Diesel as a top choice because of the excellent high speed manners & safe build.
  • Many BHPians will be cross-shopping the Altroz with the Nexon & it’s a tricky choice. The Nexon has more power, but the Altroz looks better (Nexon is too funky for my tastes). The Nexon is a taller car, but the Altroz has a ride quality advantage (Nexon is too stiff).

Read Team-BHP's detailed Tata Altroz Diesel Review

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